My husband and I live in the US and we’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year. I have one daughter from a previous relationship, but we decided when we got married that we wanted to try for one more.
As the months after our wedding slipped by, I told myself that if we made it through a year without a single positive pregnancy test, I would schedule us appointments at a local fertility clinic.
We were still young. I was 25 and my husband was 31. I knew we still had plenty of time to have another child. But if we couldn’t get pregnant in a year, I felt like we should see a doctor, just to make sure that there weren’t any obvious problems.
I spoke to a friend who had recently conceived twins through IVF. I got the name of her doctor and quickly called to set up the preliminary appointments. “You’re in luck,” the receptionist told me with enthusiasm. “We have a New Patient Special at the moment.”
Immediately you see the difference between infertility in the United States and infertility in any country with government-funded healthcare, right? Our fertility clinics have “New Patient Specials.” They also have IVF raffles and finance departments. They’re more car dealership than doctor’s office, when you think about it.
As I made my husband and my appointments, noting times and any special requirements down in my day planner, the scheduler explained that the first round of testing would only cost $99 each. It would check my hormone levels and my husband’s sperm count. Of course, the appointment to get our test results and talk them over with the doctor would be another $250. Already, I could see how this process was going add up. No one had even come close to my uterus and we had already paid $450. Things wouldn’t get cheaper from there.
In fact, reproductive health in the United States gets substantially more expensive after those first appointments. According to Resolve, an American infertility association, the average cost of an IUI cycle is $895. If you have to move on to in vitro, you’re looking at roughly $8000. That’s not include any hormones injections or medications.
This is infertility in America, where treatment is a luxury. Here, reproductive technology is only for those who have thousands of dollars to throw around.
I have to admit that I read articles on websites from the UK and Australia about IVF. I follow the news on legislation to allow older women or single women or same-sex couples the chance to receive reproductive assistance through government-sponsored healthcare. I read all of it with a certain level of jealousy, but also awe. It’s just so amazing to think what it would be like to consider treatments without also wondering how we can pay for it or if we should take out a line of credit on our home equity. It sounds heavenly, not to have to wait a few years between rounds of IUI and IVF so that you can save up the cash to keep trying.
Fertility clinics in the United States mostly don’t bother to ask about insurance. Not even my premium, employer-sponsored, zero co-pay insurance covers infertility treatments. In fact, my OB/GYN had to warn me not to bring up my infertility during my annual exam. If we talked about trying to conceive, she would have to bill the appointment differently. My insurance would reject it.
One of the nurses told me that they were considering making women sign forms saying that they weren’t there to discuss problems conceiving, that they were only there for a basic Pap Smear. Too many patients wanted to talk infertility during their yearly appointment, trying to squeeze it in under the guise of an insurance-covered annual. All appointments about trying to conceive had to be separate, and they would prefer it if you just paid up front.
It’s been more than a year since my first visit to the fertility clinic. 29 months, not that I’m counting, and just an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage to show for it. Treating both of those was covered by insurance though.
My husband and I are facing serious choices. We could continue to try naturally, never really knowing when luck might strike. Or we could use money that should be going towards my daughter’s future college education to try to give her a sibling. As we debate, I dream about utopias like Australia, where I wouldn’t have to decide between financial security and my desire to have another baby.